“The world urgently needs to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with lack of rainfall and the United States endures the worst drought it has experienced in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports. “The World Meteorological Organization [WMO] says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption,” the AP writes (Heilprin, 8/21). “Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,’ said [WMO] Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release,” the U.N. News Centre notes. “‘We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,’ he added, according to the news service (8/21). “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports food prices have climbed by six percent because of drought, ethanol production and high fuel costs, and are likely to go higher if drought continues,” VOA News adds (Schlein, 8/21).
“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).
“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy” to fight drug demand, supply and trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said Monday at the opening session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, United Press International reports. Fedotov added, “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system,” according to UPI (3/12). “He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/12).
Daniel Wolfe, director of the International Harm Reduction Development Program, part of the Open Society Public Health Program, writes in the Open Society Foundations’ blog about “a recent joint U.N. statement calling for the immediate closure of the hundreds of centers in which drug users are detained in the name of treatment,” saying the statement “came not a moment too soon.” He continues, “This call for closure of drug detention camps comes after years of horrifying reports of abuses in these facilities.” According to Wolfe, “The message, endorsed by agencies such as UNAIDS, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and the International Labor Organization, is unequivocal. Locking people up and abusing them in the name of drug rehabilitation is ineffective. It violates human rights. And countries shouldn’t do it” (3/13).
Delegates from humanitarian aid groups from the Arab and Muslim world at a conference in Cairo on Sunday urged international aid agencies to utilize Syrian civil society and private sector groups to deliver medical and food aid inside the country, where anti-government protests have displaced hundreds of thousands and pushed many below the poverty line, IRIN reports. “Access was among the main points of discussion at the meeting, hosted by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and The Humanitarian Forum, which called for better coordination in the delivery of aid both inside Syria and to refugees in neighboring countries, especially in the area of access to health care,” the news service writes.
“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.
“Developing countries have already achieved their 2015 [Millennium Development Goal (MDG)] of drastically reducing the number of people without regular access to improved drinking water, though much of the credit lies with India and China,” UNICEF and the WHO said in a joint report (.pdf) on Tuesday, Reuters reports (Charbonneau, 3/6). “According to the [WHO] and UNICEF joint monitoring program for water supply and sanitation (JMP), between 1990 and 2010 more than two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells” and “at the end of 2010, 89 percent of the population — 6.1 billion people — now used improved drinking water sources, one percent more than the 88 percent target contained in [MDG] number seven, set in 2000,” the Guardian writes (Ford, 3/6).
The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that more than a million children below the age of five in the Sahel are facing a disaster amid the ongoing food crisis in the drought-prone region of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/16). “‘More extreme conditions could see this number rise to about 1.5 million and the problem is that funding is not coming in at the rate that we need in order to prepare properly,’ [UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado] said. ‘So far we have received just one-fifth of the $119 million we have asked for in 2012,'” VOA News writes (3/16).
Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment, “is hoping bird flu studies currently in publishing limbo will be released by the time the agency hosts a second meeting on the controversy this summer,” the Canadian Press/Winnipeg Free Press reports. “A major break in the impasse would be needed for that to happen,” the Canadian Press writes, adding, “As things currently stand, revised versions of the two studies are due to be presented late this month to the U.S. biosecurity panel that earlier recommended against their full publication.”